How to ensure business continuity amidst the challenges being faced due to COVID-19 outbreak
Amidst the economic disruption being faced due to the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses that can still operate are being challenged with how best to ensure business continuity. In the case of these businesses, not everyone can work remotely, and for some sectors employees still need to go to work. Below we have identified a few appropriate workplace measures that employers can adopt to continue running their operation while minimising the risks of community spread of the COVID-19 virus, sustaining productivity levels, thus protecting the business and most importantly their employees.
To ensure business continuity, it is essential for businesses to act as fast as possible to lessen any negative impact while preparing the organisation for future developments that may arise due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In order to centralise all efforts, organisations may wish to establish a core crisis team to coordinate response efforts and define objectives. This team can also be responsible for reviewing crisis and business continuity plans, developing different scenarios and putting them to the test in order to prepare for unknown variables surrounding the outbreak. This team will act as the go to personnel throughout the crisis, to ensure consistency across all departments and functions.
During this challenging time, the safety of our employees is of utmost importance. Employees may face different health risks depending on the type of work they do, where they do it and their own health status. Organisations face challenges in supporting different populations of workers and ensuring fairness across the whole workforce. For those who still need to physically report to work, organisations are encouraged to monitor their employees' health. An example of this could be to test employees for symptoms, such as fever, prior to employees reporting to work. Other measures to be taken can include ensuring distancing, increased hygiene and providing protective clothing. Moreover, during this time it is also important that all crucial contact information, including emergency contact information of all employees is updated.
With the possibility of employees falling ill, or not being able to carry out their duties for a number of factors, it is extremely important that contingency plans are put in place for all critical roles. Firstly, organisations need to identify these roles, determine the skills needed to fulfil these positions, and establish who can replace these key individuals. In order to mitigate the loss of any critical roles, you will need to identify any skills gaps, accelerate training of candidates and/or search externally for suitable replacement candidates. You may also need to identify where you can free up capacity, and redeploy skills where most needed.
A way to mitigate the unnecessary spreading of the virus and to ensure business continuity is to split teams. If one person within a team is infected, the rest will most likely be put into quarantine meaning they will not be able to work (if their position does not allow for remote working). A way to avoid this could be through physical segregation of teams, for example, splitting call centre staff into two locations. Another example is having teams working different shifts of days. This could for example apply to staff working in a warehouse or construction workers working at the same site.
In order to ensure minimal contact between employees, as well as between employees and customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders, flexible work arrangements should be considered. For staff that are not required to be in the office, remote working should be enabled. If this is not possible imminently, we suggest splitting of teams as previously stated in order to avoid mass spread. This measure will not only eliminate unnecessary onsite personnel from being in contact with one another, but also eases the challenges being faced with working parents due to school closures for the year. Considering a reduced work week, reduced hours per day, or compressed work schedule might be some other options to support employees, whilst helping to reduce redundancies and help manage increased demand in services later in the year.
Communication continues to be paramount when navigating through this crisis. It is of utmost importance that business leaders continue to update their staff on any and all changes that take place. Information is wealth at a time like this. With the need for support from all their employees in order to navigate through this crisis, it is crucial that management is transparent about what decisions are being taken and expectations of all employees throughout this trying time. However, beyond ensuring that management communicates about what is unfolding internally, we also suggest communicating about measures being advised by our national health authorities such as social distancing, increased hygiene, etc.
Should you require any assistance in addressing any workforce challenges during these difficult times please contact us.
Advisory Partner, PwC Malta
Tel: +356 2564 7091
Senior Manager, Advisory, PwC Malta
Tel: +356 2564 7026